Duets are for suckers, star-packed trios and beyond are where it’s at and like red and grey duvet covers, we’ve not found much use for them since the 80s. So let’s enjoy some of the finest examples, in descending order of population.
We Are The World (1984)
Far be it from me to belittle yer man Geldof’s efforts, but blow me down did Quincy Jones ever get together whatever the opposite of a rum bunch is for the Jackson/Richie penned treaclefest.
Quantity: Too many to count, but when you’ve got John Oates, Ray Charles and Dan Aykroyd in the same room, you just know this shit’s serious Quality: 5/10
State of Independence (1982)
Rewind a few years from We Are The World and you can see Quincy Jones warming up for the love-in with a Donna Summer cover of a Jon & Vangelis warbler. That many not sound like cause for an assembly of what is described as an All-Star Choir, but to be honest calling it an All-Star Choir is like saying Archie Gemmill has scored a goal at the World Cup. Impressive yes, but that’s not even half the story, mainly because the whole story is a legend for our times, that generations will talk about in hushed tones. Well, maybe just in my house. The full line-up reads like a Who’s Who: Yacht Rock edition colliding with a Motown tourbus: Christopher Cross, James Ingram, Michael Jackson, Peggy Lipton, Quincy Jones, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Lionel Richie, Brenda Russell, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, and slightly inexplicably Dyan Cannon. Although some of those names may not be riding high now, in 1982 Christopher Cross could have bought and sold you in the blink of an eye. If a grenade had rolled into that recording studio, I would probably only own about three records today.
Quantity: 12 Quality: 7/10
That’s What Friends Are For (1985)
What started out as a Rod Stewart track on the near perfect soundtrack to criminally underrated morgue as brothel comedy Night Shift, was then covered by Dionne Warwick & Friends and raised 3 million dollars for AIDS research. And who were those friends? None other than Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, and unfortunately for him, massively out of his depth vocals-wise, the world’s most famous Hornets fan Elton John.
Quantity: 4 Quality: 8
I Feel For You (1984)
Stevie loves himself a collaboration. The one figure who crops up on all the tracks in the list, here he is turning up on a 1984 Chaka Khan cover of a Prince tune that was a big hit. Joining in and making three was Melle Mel whose stuttered opening rap has gone down in music history, was apparently a mistake that uberproducer Arif Mardin loved and then kept in.
Quantity 3.5 : Quality: 9
So bigger is better, but actually not too big is better than big. Or something. Cripes, I don’t know if we’ve learned anything. I leave you with this, a Japanese tribute to We Are The World, which is either touching, mocking, totally loopy or all three.